The first South American writer to win the Nobel Prize in literature was Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral, born Lucila Godoy Alcayaga (1889-1957).
She won the 1945 Nobel Prize in Literature for her passionate, lyrical poetry. Though born in Chile, she was a teacher and diplomat who spent much of her life abroad, in Mexico, Europe, and the United States, and died in New York.
Mistral was the first South American, or Latin American, writer to be honored with the Nobel Prize in literature, but not the last.
Other South Americans have included Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (1971) and Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1982). Octavio Paz, a Mexican poet, was awarded the prize in 1990. He died at the age of 84 in 1998.
Besides those mentioned, great South American writers have included Ecuadoran Jorge Icaza, author of the novel Huasipungo (1934), which dealt with the exploitation of Native Americans.
Another is Uruguayan poet Juan Zorilla de San Martin, author of the 1886 epic poem Tabare.